Live A Little
Howard Jacobson is noted for his comic novels (very noted, he won the Booker Prize with ‘The Finkler Question’ back in 2010) but as well as being able to conjure up funny set pieces from the most unlikely of subject matters, he’s also a whizz at characterisation. Case in point are the two ninety-something protagonists of his latest novel, Beryl Duinsbery and Shimi Carmelli. Duinsbery spends her days in her North London flat chaffing at her long-suffering carers and stitching morbid samplers. Carmelli, meanwhile, is a cartomancer (someone who tells fortunes using a normal pack of playing cards) and regarded among the Widows of North London as the last of the eligible bachelors. We learn that while Duinsbery has had a string of lovers (and husbands) Carmelli has led a largely solitary life (perhaps because of an incident he regards as shameful which happened while he was a child). When the two meet an unlikely romance blooms. Jacobson’s trademark wit is very much to the fore, but he also gives us a tender portrait of two people who, perhaps, have one more chapter in their lives.